This year’s CES provided much of what we expected and (as usual) a few surprises.
Trends: As opposed to individual stand-out products, I find it interesting to look for trends that appeared in multiple locations. Here are the trends that caught my eye.
1. Expected Trend: As expected, there were 4k TV (or alternately called Ultra HD) everywhere. Admittedly, the pictures can be amazing, however I still doubt there are near term reasons for the average consumer to upgrade. The format is impressive and there seem to be two reasons that (aside from commercial uses) will drive sales. The first is that for screens larger that about 80” there is a marked difference between HD and UHD. The second is 3D. Although 3D TV has failed to take off, there is no denying the impact of films in 3D. The benefit of UHD is that with 3D you get a full HD picture for each eye as opposed to half resolution with regular HD. The other piece of data that came from all of the Ultra HD displays is that up-converted Blu-ray looks great on an UHD set. In fact, many of the UHD sets on the floor were shown using up-converted Blu-ray. The take away here is that Blu-ray has a much longer future as the dominant physical medium than we otherwise might have suspected.
2. New Trend: One trend that was new this year was high quality Bluetooth speakers. In previous cycles we’ve seen Bluetooth used for headphones and game controllers, but this year there were a significant number of high quality speakers that you can pair with your phone or other music player. The concept here is that you can move the speaker around (i.e. outside or to the garage) or just leave it on the nightstand to playback high quality music from the device you carry with you all of the time. I’d expect to see more of these speakers going forward. In the future we may have one (or a pair) in every room.
3. Trend in Search of a Need: This year’s technology in search of a need was augmented reality. A number of organizations showcased augmented technology solutions that used tablets or phones to add animation to still objects or add virtual detail to the real world. The challenge here is that none of the displays I saw had any business case or hint of financial purpose. I have no doubt that eventually there will be a good business case… but we haven’t seen one yet.
4. Growing Trend: The internet of things continues to grow. In previous years we’ve seen networked refrigerators and light bulbs and this year just about everything on the show floor included and wi-fi or Bluetooth chip. The future is clear… everything will feed data to everything else. Now we just need the bandwidth to handle it and the systems to manage it.
5. Not Ready for Prime-time Trend: It may be true that 3D printers will soon change the world… but right now about all they can do it make bright colored plastic desk toys. It is impressive that a drawing on a computer can be rendered in 3D but, we seem to be a ways off from being able to render things that can actually be used.
A couple of particular items that caught my attention (for good or bad) were:
- My favorite new technology was the ability to use the horizontal and vertical polarization of passive glasses 3DTV to allow two different viewers to see two different views on the same TV (one viewer has two vertical lenses and the other has two horizontal lenses). The most interesting use was for gaming. In the demo I saw, two players were playing a driving game where each player saw their own car’s view while looking at the same screen. This is a technology that I expect to see commercialized in the next year or two.
- One interesting device was essentially a window washing robot. It actually stuck to (and climbed) the window while washing the glass. I’m not sure it will ever catch on, but it was a cool idea.
- The worst new product had to be the potty seat (for training) with a built in iPad case. Seriously, a $600 piece of technology probably isn’t necessary in order to stop using diapers. And if you can afford an iPad for that purpose… perhaps you could just hire someone to potty train your child instead.
Commentary provided and by Mitchell Weinraub, the Vice President of Product with Blockbuster, LLC. Material originally posted on his blog at http://tvtopics.wordpress.com/.